Swedish Semla Buns Recipe

Swedish semla buns ('semla' in singular and 'semlor' in plural) are cardamom buns filled with sweet almond cream and topped with whipped cream, traditionally enjoyed around Lent. Super naughty and super delicious.



To make this almond cream filling, you need to make two components: crème pâtissière (pastry cream) and marzipan. Don't be tempted to buy that horrible artificially-flavoured premade stuff in the supermarket baking aisle – homemade is so much better (as I mentioned in my braided stollen recipe a while ago). A lot of people don't like marzipan because they've only ever tried the supermarket baking aisle kind, but I promise you homemade is in a completely different league.

You do need a food processor to make the marzipan, but a blender will do too (which I used as my processor broke long ago). Using a blender is trickier as you'll keep having to scrape the sides down but it does work.

Need visuals? Check out my making-of video on YouTube:


Ready? Let's go.

(Makes four buns with leftover almond cream.)

Ingredients for Buns:

100ml milk
5g fresh or dry active yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
200g bread flour
30g more caster sugar
15g unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of salt
1/2 a beaten egg
1 tsp cardamom powder
The other 1/2 beaten egg (to glaze)

Ingredients for Almond Cream:

1 egg
1 tbsp cornflour
125ml milk
50g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch of salt
25g unsalted butter
150g ground almonds
75g icing sugar
2 tbsp water

Ingredients for Cream Topping:

300ml double cream
2 tbsp icing sugar (optional)

To Decorate:

Extra icing sugar (for dusting)

Method:

1. Warm the milk in a small saucepan a little (but not so hot it's steaming), and mix it with the yeast and 1tsp of caster sugar in a small bowl. Leave for a few minutes until it's bubbly.

2. Add the bubbly yeast mixture, along with all the rest of the bun ingredients (keeping the other half of the beaten egg for later) into a large bowl. Stir until it comes together, then use your hands to knead into a dough.

3. Turn out onto a clean work surface and keep kneading for around 10 minutes, until the dough becomes super smooth and elastic, and springs back when you try to stretch it.

4. Pop the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm or a damp kitchen towel. Let it proof until doubled in size (about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how warm your room is).

5. While your dough is proofing, make the almond cream: start by making the pastry cream by whisking the egg, cornflour, milk, caster sugar, vanilla, salt together. Pour the mixture into a saucepan, pop in the butter, and whisk with a balloon whisk over a medium heat to melt the butter and thicken the cream. Once it's thick enough to leave a trail when you drag your whisk through it, scoop it into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and set aside to cool completely.

6.  Next, make the marzipan by popping the ground almonds and caster sugar into a food process or blender. Pulse until it forms a dough-like consistency, scraping down the sides of the container every so often if needed.

7. Whisk the marzipan and your cooled pastry cream together: this is your filling. Set it aside and carry on with the dough.

5. Once doubled in size, punch the dough back down and divide it into four portions, shaping each into a ball and placing them on a baking paper-lined tray. Cover and let them rise for another 30 minutes to an hour, again depending on the warmth of your room.

6. When you're nearly ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180°C. Brush the tops of the buns with the remaining beaten egg, and bake for 12–15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

7. When you're ready to assemble your semla, whisk the cream and icing sugar together until it forms soft peaks. Now cut triangular holes into the tops of your buns, taking care not to go all the way to the other side of the bun and keeping the cut pieces.

8. To assemble, pipe some almond cream into the holes you've just made. Pipe generous swirls of cream on top, and finish with the cut pieces on top. Dust over a little more icing sugar before serving.

Enjoy, and have fun.

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